Solitude to solidarity

Tintamarre’s latest show examined ways of being lonely

“It’s comedic, it’s beautiful, it has serious questions, and it’s only 80 minutes long.” – Alex Fancy. Motyer Fancy Theatre/Submitted

Tintamarre’s latest production, Solitaire, was shown at the Motyer-Fancy Theatre last week. This year, the collaborative bilingual theatre troupe chose an in-depth examination of loneliness as their show’s theme. Despite the heavy topic, the play is undoubtedly a comedy with funny moments quickly following the serious ones.

Caitlin O’Connor, a third-year psychology major and drama minor, has been working with Tintamarre since her first year. This year she was the associate director of Solitaire. She explained how, when brainstorming ideas for their shows, the group tries to approach a relevant topic. “This year [we] approached a topic of solitude and loneliness because it’s become an epidemic where people isolate themselves,” she said. “We see that in the university setting a lot. We thought that would be really relevant to students who close themselves up in their residence rooms or isolate themselves with their studies and sometimes they don’t get the full university experience.”

Alex Fancy, professor emeritus of French, is the director of Tintamarre. He explained how the play starts with the characters in solitude, isolated by their loneliness, but ends with them united in solidarity. “There are so many reasons why we can withdraw into our cocoons,” said Fancy, who referenced New York futurist Faith Popcorn, who coined the term “cocooning” to describe isolation in the modern era. This term inspired the crew to feature a “cocoon” as the central piece of the play’s set.

There are many forms of loneliness, but Solitaire covers five ways of being lonely – social invisibility, isolation by anger, refuge in fiction, eco-anxiety and fear of failure. “These patterns are acted by five different actors whom we call solitaires or solitary peoples,” explained Fancy. “All five of them have left their community and they’ve gone somewhere out to the edge of a big city, in a non-descriptive environment where they’re building a cocoon. That’s their hiding place but it’s also a metaphor for loneliness.”

Tintamarre builds their shows up from scratch, starting by brainstorming a theme in the fall semester. “The [first] rehearsal, we start with having nothing. We just talk about the general concept,” said Carol Shumaker, a third-year drama major who played the part of the Corbeau/Crow in this production. “Then we add characters, we add story, we add plotline, and so the script and all the characters are basically all of our hard work, love and dedication in one little booklet.” This makes the mood onstage one of a collaborative nature where ideas are not only welcomed but encouraged.

Motyer Fancy Theatre/Submitted

 

An important factor of the Tintamarre set-up is that there are no auditions. Everyone is welcome, no matter their level of experience. “To us, it’s very important that we don’t have auditions and that people are there because they’re interested in doing some drama and staging a play together,” said Fancy. In the spring, the group plans to tour local schools in the area to present an adapted version of Solitaire.

Gabriel Christie, a fifth-year English major, played Soliguerre, a character who has isolated themself with anger. This is Christie’s second year working with Tintamarre. “The Tintamarre show is one of the more unique shows I’ve been in,” he said. “[I’ve met] some of the greatest people. The whole cast is just incredibly friendly.”

Toward the end of the play, the characters come together and create a new ending where, instead of the five solitaires handling their loneliness by themselves, they do so together. We watch what happens as the cocoon turns into a chrysalis and nearly the entire cast transforms into butterflies.

“They discover that conversation [and] face-to-face encounters are the best hope we have for eliminating the concern for solitude and loneliness,” explained Fancy. “The end of the play is a celebration of solidarity whereas the beginning it looked as if as if it was going to be an existentialist play about loneliness.”

Julianna Rutledge
Julianna Rutledge is a third year English major at Mount Allison University. She grew up outside of Toronto (which she never quite liked) and moved to Sackville for university (which she would like better if there were less exams). She is an Arts and Culture reporter at the Argosy.